September 21, 2017

Getting dressed up

Image Credit: kitchen.nutiva.com

Many are familiar with the year of transition that comes after graduating college. Jobs, surroundings and friends change. What I’ve experienced most is that hobbies change. My free time used to be filled with Netflix and hangovers, but recently my extracurricular activities have begun to resemble those of a middle-aged suburban stay-at-home mom. And I love it.

I may not have babies of my own, but that’s okay because my garden is now my baby. The pride I once felt when I received an A on an advertising project has now been replaced with the pride I take in a good batch of homemade salsa. The excitement I once reserved for dollar drink nights has now been designated to 40% off sales at Old Navy. Wine nights have been replaced with woodworking and I’m now looking into quilting classes and a women’s golf league. The significant amount of time I once spent dressing for a night out at the bars has been replaced by….dressing my salads.

I’m no foodie. I ate the exact same lunch every single weekday for 18 months. 30 percent of my dinners consist of me lying in bed, eating an English muffin. However, in an effort to eat more veggies and less carbs, I’ve made a goal to make salads my new best friend.

Luckily, I like salads. Unfortunately, I like high calorie dressings. Sure, there are low-cal vinaigrettes I can purchase off the shelf, but they’re not fulfilling. So I decided to take this into my own hands, literally, and make my own salad dressings. After a few weeks of experimenting, I’ve included my most significant findings below.

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

4 servings, 134 calories per serving

I topped my salad with the concoction above, avocado, shrimp, cucumbers and tomatoes. Once I decided to ignore the fact that the taste of the vinaigrette resembled the color and taste of stomach bile, it wasn’t too bad. Like I said, I’m not a big vinaigrette fan but I’d try this again. It’s a bit sour and bitey, but fresh and perfect for summer.

Skinny Caesar Dressing

  • ⅔ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped (or sub with 2 tablespoons black pitted olives, chopped finely and 1 teaspoon fish sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning

4 servings, 75 calories per serving

Who doesn’t like Caesar salad? It’s the GOAT of all salads, almost tying with taco salad. Nothing like crisp romaine lettuce with croutons, parmesan and the creamy, savory dressing served in a chilled saucer. YUM. In typical mom fashion, I was PUMPED to find a skinny substitute for this heavenly goodness. I was aware that traditional Caesar dressing contained anchovies, and while I’ve never had any desire to try anchovies, the thought of putting canned fish into the dressing did not scare me.

It should have.

After wandering around the entire grocery store, I finally found anchovies. They’re located by the canned tuna, by the way. I had no clue what anchovies looked like, so I was shocked to find eight grayish greenish filets wrapped around some ball of goop resembling an olive, covered in oil. I’m still not sure what the goopy ball was and I don’t want to know. While breathing through my mouth and chopping up the fillets, I noticed the spine. Yep, that’s right, I was about to put BONES in my salad dressing. But I had confidence in my ability to make a healthy dressing.

I shouldn’t have.

After letting the dressing chill, I mixed it with all the traditional elements of a Caesar salad, including fried chicken breast topped with parsley and garlic salt. Had someone else made the dressing for me, I probably would’ve been fine. I somehow managed to eat the entire salad. But the post-traumatic anchovy stress I experienced made the act of eating the salad very unenjoyable. I could not get the image of chopped canned fish with bones in it, which looked like tiny hairs, out of my mind. And I could not get the taste out of my mouth even hours later. I’d find a chunk of parsley in the salad and freak out. WAS IT PARSLEY OR A CHUNK OF ANCHOVY? It was stressful. I dumped the remainder of the dressing in the garbage and took a vow to only eat store-bought Caesar dressing for the rest of my days.

Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing

  • ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried chives
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ cup—1/2 cup buttermilk

Refrigerate and let flavors blend for 2 hours before serving.

8 servings, 25 calories per serving

RANCH. GIVE ME ALL THE RANCH. Just like Oprah loves bread (me too, O), I love ranch. I could bathe in it. Carrots, cheese balls, hot wings, pizza, wraps, sandwiches, cucumbers, salads and life itself are all improved with the creamy, seasoned goodness of ranch.

After the Caesar fiasco, I felt like Julius Caesar myself. Betrayed and stabbed in the back. So naturally, my hopes were not high for homemade ranch. Plus, who would trust a ranch dressing that contains 25 CALORIES PER SERVING? Not me. I don’t even trust light ranch. It’s always much more oily, less creamy and just gross in general. I stick to traditional Hidden Valley ranch, containing 145 calories per serving. The fact that someone thought it would be possible to create a duplicate for only 1/6 of the calories was outrageous to me.

I was wrong. It was magnificent. It’s definitely not a ranch duplicate, but it makes a good substitute. The smell was identical to traditional ranch, but I could taste the mustard. The lemon juice made it taste very fresh. It was not only delightful on a salad, but was perfect for dipping carrots in it as well. This Greek yogurt ranch is life changing. 25 CALORIES PER 2 TABLESPOONS, FOLKS. I may never buy ranch again.

Although I’ve fully embraced my new suburban soccer mom persona, some of my college qualities still exist, such as sitting on the kitchen floor in my pajamas, eating frozen shrimp and binge watching the entire Dawson’s Creek series for the third time. Maybe one day I’ll actually act like a grown up, but until then you can find me curled up in bed eating fresh romaine, topped with cucumbers and grilled chicken covered in DEADEYE BBQ SAUCE, tossed in guilt-free homemade ranch.

Dana Melcher 11 Articles
Staff Writer

Dana Melcher is a recently dubbed “adult” and Iowa State grad who shamelessly adores Lisa Frank products, Dawson’s Creek and alternative 90’s music (all of which were popular before she could recite the alphabet.) She enjoys fan-girling at little-known artists’ concerts, drinking wine from boxes and putting down unlimited amounts of Red Lobster cheddar “bae” biscuits. In her free time, Dana can be found wearing sundresses at inappropriate times (at the driving range; in her garden) and talking way too loudly about things that don’t really matter.

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